I may update my opinions as the election draws nearer, especially if debates reveal anything useful. I will also be writing a section at some point containing thoughts on Congressional and local races, together with some analysis of Maryland races once I do some research. For now, the Presidency:
At the moment, there are four candidates who could be elected to the the office of President of the United States under normal circumstances: Hilary Clinton (Democratic), Gary Johnson (Libertarian), Jill Stein (Green), or Donald Trump (Republican). Due to vagaries of the system, these people are recognized more by their party’s ballot access than direct possibility of voting for them: as a result, Stein’s candidacy would take a strange coalition to succeed; additionally, Johnson and the Libertarian party are, as of this date, lacking access in several states – most importantly New York and Ohio. I do not know whether with three months to go this can or will still be changed – and if so, in which states.
In addition, numerous small parties or independent candidates have some ballot access but not enough to secure the Presidency under normal circumstances. There are, it seems to me, a great many problems with how elections are structured – but as the system currently tends to benefit the two largest parties, I have small hope of seeing the changes I might hope to be made. In fact I will not even spend time on Stein’s candidacy: I do not believe she is at all likely to win or even poll particularly well. Additionally, I have very little agreement with the Green party’s positions.
This leaves three candidates: Clinton, Johnson, and Trump. If I were to guess, I would guess that Trump is likely to win the race. In the first place, his candidacy for the Republican party seemed to show some support – judging by open primary states – from normally Democratic voters, suggesting a cross-party appeal. In the second place, he reflects far too closely what I see day to day – especially on the internet – as the typical American political discourse: insults, angry sound-bites, sexual irresponsibility, vulgarity, and distrust of anyone not in one’s own personal “group”. I see these habits in people claiming all sorts of different ideological positions. I suspect his tone therefore resonates strongly with those who more or less agree with his positions (such as they are), and I doubt those opposed to him will be able to mount effective criticism when they tend to indulge in the very kind of nonsense they want to criticize him for.
When I say I think Trump will win, I do not mean that he ought to win, except perhaps in a “get what we deserve” sense. His presence is angry, immature, and destabilizing. His policies are not always consistence and as plans incoherent. Apart from his ability to seize attention, he has very little to recommend him in office. There are, I think, only two reasons to vote for Trump. One is that he does seem to care about a certain kind of often-ignored citizen – the relatively poorly off working class, especially if white. Reintroducing their concerns into political decision-making can hardly be a bad thing: except I still do not see Trump as the person to address those concerns competently.
The other reason would be if the alternatives are worse. When comparing Trump with Clinton, I am honestly not sure who is more dangerous to the state of the republic. Trump is a public disgrace: Clinton appears to be competent, but her stated goals are to push us further down an immoral and unConstitutional track, and I very much doubt her political integrity. By this I mean that – much like President Obama, or perhaps more accurately Senator Reid – she is prepared to use any method, however questionable, which she can get away with to implement policies which she believes will work. I do not much like being told what to do on quite a number of matters Clinton thinks are public business, and moreover I do not like what she seems likely to try to tell me to do. I am not sure it is much of a defense to say she “means well”, though I believe that somewhat nebulous phrase does apply: I do not think she is interested (only) in personal aggrandizement as Trump is.
I am not content with the concept of voting for “the lesser of two evils”. Even considered as “the most possible good”, there seem to be cases where it is hard to find any meaningful distinctions. If in fact there were no moral distinctions to be made, and both options are bad, a moral person is justified – I am tempted to say required – to choose neither, even if this means abstaining. Of Clinton and Trump, Clinton is more likely to be a responsible President, but Trump is less likely to impede whatever good policy comes from Congress. How to choose?
In the event, I currently find Johnson preferable to either. His basic legal principles and record are superior. He has not to my knowledge either been involved in any scandal or made an idiot of himself nationally. I do however have reservations, because on two key points he seems entirely in tune with today’s dangerous tendencies. He has indicated, in the first place, that he is comfortable using executive orders to achieve good policy – to what extent I am not sure as no interviewer (to my knowledge) has questioned him seriously about this. He also is unwilling to face down the Supreme Court, especially on abortion: he sounds on the subject just like any other Court supremacist. (He is, however, far more likely than Clinton – who would pick a probably radical progressive – or Trump – who would likely pick a crony – to make solid appointments to the courts.)
If the election were tomorrow, I would as of now vote for Johnson. I do not want to make this an endorsement, because the drawbacks of his positions are nearly as big as the advantages. At the same time, I see – especially in comparison – virtually nothing but drawbacks to either of the other candidates.